Director: Wong Kar Wai (Fallen Angels, 2046, Chunking Express, In the Mood for Love)
Starring: Nora Jones, Jude Law, David Strathairn, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman
Running time: 90 min
I‘ve been waiting for a while to write this review and my wait has not been caused by my usual procrastination but by the fact that My Blueberry Nights has been a long time in coming. It was originally shown back at Cannes in 2007 and even before that we had beautiful shots from the movie that had us drooling. Unfortunately all the beauty in the world was not enough for this movie and after a poor showing at Cannes Wong Kar Wai set about re-editing it and we are finally seeing My Blueberry Nights popping up in theatres. So the question then is if the re-edit is enough to turn My Blueberry Night into a classic like In the Mood for Love or Chunking Express.
Sadly, I’m going to have to say no. My Blueberry Nights revolves around the character of Elizabeth (Norah Jones). You will notice that I do not say that the movie revolves around the beginnings of the relationship between Elizabeth and Jeremy (Jude Law) and this is why the movie falters in my opinion. The premise is that Elizabeth breaks up from her boyfriend of 10 months after finding out that he has been seeing someone else. She discovers this by questioning Jeremy at his diner. Elizabeth and Jeremy hit if off as friends and spend several nights chatting about life over blueberry pie at the Diner. Late one night after Elizabeth has fallen asleep at the diner Jeremy steals a kiss without her knowing. The next night Elizabeth doesn’t return but has headed off across the Country in order to find herself. During this time we can actually see Norah Jones grow somewhat as an actress as she becomes more comfortable.
While traveling across the country Elizabeth takes a job at a bar where she meets Arnie Copeland (David Strathairn) an alcoholic cop who is separated from his wife, Sue Lynne (Rachel Weisz). Elizabeth forms a new friendship with Arnie. The role of the character Elizabeth at this point is to be a witness to the disintegrating relationship between Arnie and Sue Lynne. I don’t think I can speak highly enough about Strathairn and Weisz. Both actors bring something special to this part of the story and I was completely transfixed by the movie. Unfortunately during this time the character of Elizabeth becomes secondary and even though we should be getting a feeling of how she is growing as a person by witnessing the end of the relationship Elizabeth really just becomes a background figure.
Elizabeth later moves on to Las Vegas where she meets up and befriends Leslie (Natalie Portman). Leslie makes a deal with Elizabeth where she gets Leslie’s car or 1/3 of all the profits from gambling if Elizabeth will front her. Leslie looses the money and says she will give the car to Elizabeth once she drives her to meet Leslie’s next source of money. The two become friends on the way and Leslie gains more life lessons from this time. Portman as Leslie does a great job playing the untrusting gambler and made this section also enjoyable but once again it just felt like the character of Elizabeth was overwhelmed and didn’t really grow.
After her time with Leslie, Elizabeth returns to Jeremy and they have a touching moment. Jones at this point is much more comfortable as an actress and it shows but I just had this nagging feeling that the character of Elizabeth had not really grown as a person nor was I particularly attached to relationship between Jeremy and her. My Blueberry Nights fails where Wong Kar Wai has always succeeded. I just did not care about Elizabeth or Jeremy.
I do not want to come across to harshly on My Blueberry Nights. I really do think it is worth catching if you get the chance. The cinematography is quite beautiful. I will not say that it is at the level of Chunking Express but you can definitely tell this is a Wong Kar Wai film and that is a good thing. While I did not grow to care about Elizabeth or Jeremy I was completely transfixed by Strathairn and Weisz and would love to see with a best supporting nod next year at the Oscars. If the movie had been about Anrie and Sue, Wong Kar Wai would have another classic on is hands. Unfortunately it is not and what he ends up with is a partial success.